Nitrogen Production Reaps Big Rewards in Western Corn Belt
By Dianne Girmus
The Nebraska Signal
On June 1, 2021 a change was made to the nitrogen production of Fillmore County that is reaping great rewards today.
The former Fortigen Geneva anhydrous ammonia plant, located at 2240 R St., Geneva, became Nebraska Nitrogen that serves farmers throughout the Western Corn Belt.
The business produces anhydrous ammonia fertilizer and there are other options that are by-products of ammonia, but they are not, normally, utilized with high success on corn yields.
Nebraska Nitrogen Human Resource Manager, Andy Marquart, said that ammonia is currently the cheapest and most effective fertilizer on the market for the area they serve.
“The ammonia that Nebraska Nitrogen produces is only utilized for fertilizer by area farmers. Ammonia is exceptionally effective at delivering nitrogen to the soil to improve crop yields,” Marquart said. “Some crops require higher nitrogen than others—including wheat, corn and soybeans, which are primarily grown in the Midwest.”
The plant is able to produce 100 tons in one day and up to 36,000 tons per year.
Marquart said there are usually four operators working each shift. And the site also employs a full-time maintenance crew, engineering, administration and Environmentally Health and Safety staff.
“We employ both men and women and, currently, have 36 employees, with 22 % being women,” Marquart said. “And 21, of the 36, live within 15 miles of the plant.”
“Nebraska Nitrogen’s success in recruiting local people is boosted by the company’s commitment to giving back to the local community,” Reliability Manager Luke Schram said. “The company has sponsored many local events, area athletes and academic ventures. When you see a company investing time, resources and financial support to the place you call home, it makes you want to be a part of it.”
Plant Manager, Amber Hoban, said what sets Nebraska Nitrogen apart from other facilities is that they have an employee-focused culture that is carried from the Board of Directors all the way through the site management team.
“We give our employees the opportunity to voice their opinions and have ownership on improvement ideas, community involvement, morale initiatives, employee parties and safety written programs. We focus on the self-development of our employees and train our site management team in servitude leadership that supports and encourages employee growth,” Hoban said. “The success of the site is directly related to the efforts of our employees and we consistently reward and show appreciation to them, which leads to a high retention rate and a fulfilling work experience.”
Employees have many positive statements to say about Nebraska Nitrogen.
“Everyone on our team has an important role to play to contribute to the success of our company.”
“Nebraska Nitrogen hires locally. We offer job opportunities to our local high school students for mowing and cleaning.”
“Our leadership team is a cohesive unit that models our core values and inspires our team to, consistently, seek ways to improve our site.”
“We encourage interns to our plant to learn about our industry and help them with their careers.”
“I believe that most applications, we receive, are word-of-mouth referrals from our current employees.”
“We put a huge emphasis on taking care of the staff we have, which makes it easy for them to want to recruit for us and keeps our turnover rate low.”
Things have gone well for Nebraska Nitrogen’s first year of operation.
Marquart said, “The site was able to add on multiple positions in the first full year of operation under the new ownership. We also were able to give back to the community through multiple donations and volunteer hours from site employees. In 2022, the site turnover rate was at 5% which was a large decrease from past years.”
“The site was able to meet our financial goals and expectations that were called out in the beginning of the year. Over the last year, the site has been focused on improving site processes to create a sustainable future for the business,” Hoban said. “We spent a lot of time in assessing equipment and completing inspections. In completing all of this, the site is now set up for prioritizing projects that will lower our environmental impact, improve reliability and create a safer work space for our success of the site.”
Hoban added that the site does not have any current plans for expansion, as it is focused on building a strong foundation with their current equipment and systems first.
Nebraska Nitrogen is a great asset for farmers, its employees and for Fillmore County.
“Nebraska Nitrogen’s employees model our four core values, Grit, Kaizen (continuous improvement), Trust and Excellence not only while at work, but also out in the community. It is the smallest ammonia plant in North America that creates value in Fillmore County by showcasing passion for the success of the community,” Marquart said. “We benefit our customers by creating a team-centered environment that prides itself in knowing that our employees are out greatest asset and in turn our employees provide excellent service to our customers.”